Woody Harrelson wishes he'd waited for There's Something About Mary.

 

In the Gutter

Kingpin drags the sport of kings
into the muck.

by Coury Turczyn

 

Frankly, there's nothing I enjoy more than watching big-screen commercials before seeing a movie. What better way to remind yourself of the cold realities of the entertainment world than by watching Jim Belushi cling to the remnants of his brother's fame by drunkenly screaming "WHATTA PARTY!" during that inevitable Planet Hollywood update brought to us by Coca-Cola? Yes, we may be about to plunge into a cinematic fantasy world, but in Hollywood, second-rate hacks are starving for attention.

I must confess, though, there is something I could enjoy even more than that: won't someone PLEASE show us a full-screen close-up of an Olympic sprinter throwing his guts up at the finish line? Surely there could be no finer attention-getter than making millions of moviegoers across America watch an athlete spew his lunch over your product in living color. Think of the controversy!

Thankfully, some gee-whiz executive at Nike had just that stroke of marketing genius–and inadvertently gave us nauseated moviegoers a preview of what to expect from Kingpin, the new bowling comedy starring Woody Harrelson.

To put it more succinctly, Kingpin ought to make you puke out of pure self-defense. After suffering through just 20 minutes of Kingpin's absolutely inane, pointless non-jokes, your bodily system will begin to rebel, trying to reject the aural and visual toxins. If you ignore these warning signs and grit it through to the end, there can be only one result: irreversible brain death.

Fortunately for me, my brain died years ago (I think it happened during Weekend at Bernie's 2) and I was able to make it out of the theater alive. Although my neural synapses are struggling to remove all memory of Kingpin, I'll try to recall enough of it to convey this report.

The plot is this: Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a bowling prodigy in 1979 who is on the cusp of becoming a national champion. He soundly beats reigning star Big Ern McCracken at the Odor Eaters Championship, and his future looks bright. McCracken (Bill Murray) even takes Munson under his wing, setting him up as a ringer in a traveling con to get yokels to bet on games–only to set him up for a fall when some suckers figure out the scam. The miffed bowlers grind his hand into a ball return mechanism, thus ending his career. Flash forward 17 years as a broken-down Munson discovers a new bowling prodigy, a middle-aged Amish fellow named Ishmael (Randy Quaid). Thus he gets his chance for a comeback in the bowling biz, making Ishmael his protégé.

The idea itself is quite clever: take the plots and characters of The Hustler and The Color of Money, then transpose them from the world of pool halls into the realm of bowling alleys. The potential for comedy is limitless–it could be both a parody of this particular sub-genre (fallen heroes making a comeback) as well as a goof on an inherently funny sport (bowling). Throw in some Amish jokes, and what's not to like?

Sadly, Kingpin–directed by "The Farrelly Brothers"–throws a gutter ball every chance it gets. It could have been an above-average stupid comedy, but instead mires itself in bathroom humor that doesn't work and awful one-liners that hang in the air like dead meat on a hook. Although it looks funny–Harrelson is monstrous in his ’70s leisure suits, Quaid looks supremely goofy in his "Amish" haircut, and Murray is delightfully cheesy in tacky western shirts–Kingpin never even comes close to fulfilling the potential of its concept. This is mainly because every other joke is usually about either urine or feces; the ones in between are about cunnilingus with ugly women. Yes, indeedy–Kingpin makes Dumb and Dumber (also directed by "The Farrelly Brothers") look like Sense and Sensibility.

Act now, and for just six dollars, you can see: Randy Quaid taking a dump in a urinal! Woody Harrelson puking not once, not twice, but three times in a skanky toilet! Yessss! The only respite from the pain is Bill Murray, who acts gloriously over the top–just watching him shake his hips like Elvis after a strike is almost enough to forgive the other performances. Almost.

I'm afraid "The Farrelly Brothers" (Peter and Bobby) are at a complete loss when directing pathetic dreck–especially when it doesn’t star Jim Carrey. Not only are Kingpin's jokes not funny, but the pacing of the movie itself is usually off-kilter; after every excruciating punch line, there are several seconds of dead time, as if the directors thought audiences would need to catch their breaths after laughing so uproariously. Instead, all it does is give you time to think about just how dreadful an experience Kingpin is.

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